Edited Del Mar Staff Release — Eleven runners will go to the post Saturday in Del Mar’s showcase offering – the $1-Million FanDuel Racing Pacific Classic – highlighting a stellar 11-race card that offers five Graded stakes and more than $2.3-million in purses.
This 33rd edition of the Grade I Pacific Classic will feature a trio of 3-year-olds who’ll step up and out of their category for the first time and take on their elders. Each will get a six-pound weight break – 118 as opposed to 124 – in the mile and a quarter that will be Race 10 with a post time of approximately 6 p.m. Pacific.
Two of those sophs – Pin Oak Stud’s Geaux Rocket Ride and Zedan Racing Stables’ Arabian Knight – have had their status underlined by being listed as the first and second choices in the morning line – “Rocket” and rider Mike Smith as the 5/2 favorite and “Knight” and jockey Flavien Prat right behind at 3-1.
Those two colts finished first (“Rocket”) and third (“Knight”) in the $1-million Haskell Stakes for 3-year-olds at Monmouth Park in New Jersey on July 22 in their most recent starts. The third 3-year-old in the lineup is C R K Stable’s Skinner, who’ll have Hector Berrios in the boot and has been pitched at 10-1 in the morning line.
Hall of Fame trainers Richard Mandella (“Rocket”) and Bob Baffert (“Knight”) condition the top two picks. Between them they’ve won 10 Pacific Classics already – Mandella with four and Baffert with six. Hall of Fame rider Smith has won the race four times, tying him with the late Garrett Gomez for most victories in it. A tally Saturday would put him first in that department.
The top threat among the older runners in the bunch is also trained by Baffert in Pegram/Watson/Weitman’s Defunded, a four-time Graded stakes winner who will go off at 4-1 in the morning line under Del Mar’s top rider, Juan Hernandez.
Besides its rich purse and Grade I prestige, the Pacific Classic is also a “Win and You’re In” race for this year’s $6,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Classic, which will be contested at Santa Anita on Saturday, November 4. The Pacific Classic winner is guaranteed a spot in the starting gate for the country’s richest race with all fees paid for entry.
The other four stakes on the card also carry Graded status, two at Grade II and the other pair at Grade III. They are:
(Race 7) Grade II, $300,000 Del Mar Mile for 3-year-olds and up at a mile on the Jimmy Durante Turf Course. It has drawn 10 starters.
(Race 11) Grade II, $300,000 Del Mar Handicap for 3-year-olds and up at a mile and three eighths on the turf. It has drawn 11 runners.
(Race 9) – Grade III, $150,000 Green Flash Handicap for 3-year-olds and up at five furlongs on the turf. It has lured a full field of 12, as well as three also-eligibles.
(Race 8) – Grade III, $150,000 Torrey Pines Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at a mile on the main track. It has 10 set to go.
The Del Mar Handicap and the Green Flash Handicap are also both “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup races. The former is for runners in the $4-million Breeders’ Cup Turf, while the latter is an entre to the $1-million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.
Here’s the field for the FanDuel Racing Pacific Classic in post position order with riders and morning line odds:
Geaux Rocket Ride; R23 Racing’s Katonah (Antonio Fresu, 20-1); Steve Moger’s Stilleto Boy (Kent Desormeaux, 8-1); Hronis Racing’s Tripoli (Tiago Pereira, 20-1); Defunded; Buckendorf, Lambert or Rodriguez, et al’s Order and Law (Edwin Maldonado, 30-1); Reddam Racing’s Slow Down Andy (Mario Gutierrez, 8-1); Peacock Family Holdings’ Senor Buscador (Giovanni Franco, 10-1); Arabian Knight, and Skinner.
Last year’s Pacific Classic was won in a tour de force by the eventual Horse of Year Flightline under Prat. The Sadler-trained colt, owned by a partnership headed by the Hronis Racing’s crew, put on perhaps the greatest performance in Del Mar history to capture the race in an eased-up 19 1/4-length triumph. Veteran track observers all agree the race was surely one of – if not the – best showings by a racehorse in Del Mar’s long history.